Melissa Meyer

January 7, 2019

 

Drawing with Paint – Painting Collage

 

melissa meyer 640 summer in the city i hyperallergic

Melissa Meyer, Summer in the City

 

Melissa Meyers is called a lyrical abstractionist. She paints free-floating, painterly ribbons of vibrant colors and shapes with oil paint thinned to the transparency of watercolor. She draws with paint.

I visited the exhibition Melissa Meyers: New Paintings (November 1-December 22, 2018) at Lennon, Weinberg Inc., 514 West 25 Street, N.Y. the week before it closed. The exhibition included large paintings, several smaller diptychs and one collage. This is Meyer’s fifth solo exhibition at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. The paintings are bold and vibrant.

The image above, titled Summer in the City I, is oil on canvas (2018), 80 x 60 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).  It’s a grid with calligraphic glyphs drawn with a paintbrush with thinned oil paint in different colors. Notice there are patches of palest, almost transparent pink and yellow below the painted glyphs.

 

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Melissa Meyer, Draw the Line

The image above is titled Draw the Line (2015) oil on canvas, 72×96 inches (image courtesy Lennon, Weinstein, Inc.). Here, the background is a patchwork of warm and cool whites with a second layer of warm and cool blacks painted in a calligraphic design.

John Yau, who wrote a review for Hyperallergic, is a big fan, and has reviewed many of Meyer’s solo exhibitions at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.  He said: “When Meyer started using oil paint that was closer in consistency to watercolor, she broke through into a territory that is now all her own.” See his review (November 25, 2018) at hyperallergic.com.

 

DIPTYCHS

 

melissa meyer 640 trellis too at hyperallergic

Melissa Meyer, Trellis Too

 

The image above is titled Trellis Too (2017), oil on canvas, 36×72 inches, diptych (image courtesy Lennon Weinberg, Inc.).

In his exhibition review (November 25, 2018),Yau said he counted at least three layers of marks compressed together in Trellis Too, saying the first layer is a patchwork of palest colors (durian yellow, cantaloupe orange and watery blue), the second layer includes glyph-like brushstrokes in different colors where the brush can be dry or full, the color can be saturated or faded, and one glyph often slides over another. The third layer is a drawing in black with a geometric web of tangled lines that hold the first two layers together. In his review, Yau writes he likes the way the painting asked him to pay attention to how the glyphs drift across the surface, as well as within the layers, how the paintings merge division and unity without favoring either because you notice similarities, changes and ruptures.

 

melissa meyer 640 rearrangement series 2 (2018) posit journal

Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 2

 

I was lucky to have a conversation with Jill Weinberg Adams, the gallery director, and told her I am writing about women who do collage. She told me Meyers has a long-standing interest in collage and a unique collage esthetic. I was intrigued.

I saw two collages at the gallery – one was installed in the exhibition, and one was brought out from a closet. The first image (above) is titled Rearrangement Series 2 (2018), watercolor collage on paper, 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.) The second image (below) is titled Rearrangement Series 3 (2018), watercolor collage on paper (2018), 15.75 x 12 inches (image courtesy of Lennon, Weinberg, Inc.).

 

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Melissa Meyer, Rearrangement Series 3

 

Meyer makes a connection between her approach to painting and the collage process of cutting, pasting, and arranging elements, and says she isolates elements while building the whole painting, and wants viewers to experience each part of a painting as dynamically as they experience its entirety.

SKETCHBOOKS

 

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Melissa Meyer, 3 Sketchbooks

 

The image above shows 3 sketchbooks with wide format, open double-page spreads on which Meyer added watercolor collage. I learned Meyer is often at residencies and, while there, creates “Residency Sketchbooks.”  The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York reproduced one of Meyer’s sketchbooks.

Jill Weinbeg Adams gifted me Meyer’s exhibition catalog, which includes reproductions of the artist’s painting, the sketchbook images (above), and text about the artist’s collage esthetic.

At positjoiurnal.com I read Melisssa Meyers if very aware of the importance of collage in forming contemporary aesthetics, saying “As a method, collage encourages layering, shape-making and juxtaposition, all of which I apply to my work, from my paintings to multi-panel public works using expanded media (Photoshop).

View a carousel of more watercolor collages in the Rearrangement Series at positjournal.com.

 

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Melissa Meyer, early magazine collage

 

I found the image above online. I believe it’s an early collage by the artist on what looks like a sketchbook double-page spread. You see Meyer’s calligraphic line in black on variations in warm and cool white.  Notice the cut paper collage on top where the paper shapes mimic the shapes of the calligraphic line.

FEMMAGE

 

melissa meyer 640 miriam schapiro

Miriam Schapiro, Miriam’s Life with Dolls

 

Picasso and Braque did not invent collage. Many women made collage before the men did – but the men got the credit.

In her mid-twenties, Meyer and fellow artist Miriam Schapiro co-authored an influential essay that linked the history of collage to traditional female hobbies like quilting and scrapbooking. They titled their essay “Waste Not Want Not: An Inquiry into What Women Saved and Assembled-FEMMAGE.” The essay was published in the magazine Heresies: Women’s Traditional Arts: The Politics of Aesthetics (Winter 1978).

Meyer said she was always interested in scrapbooks made primarily by women in the 18th century. She discovered a collage sensibility in quilts. She valued the works of mid -20thcentury abstractionists, including Lee Krasner, who reused paintings and works on paper and recycled them into her large collages on canvas.

See a facsimile of Femmage from the original Heresies publication at artcritical.com.

The image above is a collage by Miriam Schapiro, titled Miriam’s Life With Dolls (2006), fabric and collage on paper, 30×60 inches (image courtesy Flomenhaft Gallery, 547 W 27 Street, NY, NY). Schapiro (1923-2015) was a Canadian-born artist based in the U.S, an activist and pioneer of feminist art. Schapiro worked to resurrect the reputations of women artists who had been forgotten or dismissed by art historians. She was a painter, sculptor, printmaker, and a leader of the Pattern and Decoration art movement. Read more at the artstory.org.

 

LARGE MURALS

Meyer received a commission to create two large murals for the Shiodome City Center in Tokyo, Japan (completed in 2003). One mural was forty feet high; the other was sixty feet long. She worked with computer technicians with Photoshop to create the macquettes for the murals, directing how image files were scanned, how glyph images were layered, how colors were made saturated or muted, and how her  painted calligraphic lines were made more or less transparent.

Meyer admitted the scale of the murals posed a unique challenge. She knew she  would have to radically enlarge the scale of her brushstrokes as she painted, and make each calligraphic shape more independent. She said the most basic challenge was to make the images work for viewers from all different vantage points. The commission got Meyers thinking about how her brushstrokes would move across the surface in the super-sized murals.

She said working with Photoshop renewed her engagement with collage and profoundly affected her sense of space and her attraction to the esthetic idea of radical discontinuity.

 

THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF BRUSHWORK

 

Melissa Meyer studio view

Melissa Meyer studio view

 

The image above shows a view into Meyer’s studio with her paints, brushes and books. Meyers says “ when I’m painting, I work intuitively, physically, thinking about brushwork as a kind of choreography, a dance that happens in the wrists and arms as well as the whole body.

 

Meyer has exhibited in over forty solo shows, and has been included in group shows at the National Academy Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York.  In 1997, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY published a facsimile edition of her sketchbooks.

Meyer was awarded a Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pollock Krasner Foundation.  Meyer’s work is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Jewish Museum and many other public and private collections across the United States.

Meyer has taught at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has completed public commissions in New York, Tokyo, and Shanghai, and currently has an eight by fourteen-foot ceramic mural in fabrication for the new U.S. embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgystan.

I am so pleased to write this post about an artist who has a collage esthetic and welcome your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lee Krasner

October 26, 2018

 

Lee Krasner – young artist

The image above is a photo of a young Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984). She looks tough and determined. She was born in Brooklyn, NY into an immigrant Russian Orthodox-Jewish family. Becoming an artist was something her family never expected, and Krasner was engaged as an artist throughout her long life. She belonged to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. She is also known as the woman who married Jackson Pollock, and, in many ways, her reputation was overshadowed by his fame.

Lee Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition she deserved. Today she is regarded as embodying the spirit of the 20thcentury American avant-garde. Her paintings, collages on canvas, and drawings are part of the permanent collections at major national and international museums, including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, the Brooklyn Museum, NY, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, the National Gallery of Australia Sydney, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY, Tate Modern, London and many others.

DRAWING

Lee Krasner, Seated Nude

The image above is titled Seated Nude (1940), 25×18 inches, drawing with charcoal on paper, collection: the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Krasner’s art training was thorough and rigorous. She attended the Cooper Union, the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design in New York, (1928-1932) where she mastered the fundamentals of drawing, painting and design. Following the Academy, Krasner studied with the influential German abstract artist Hans Hofmann and absorbed his theories about Cubism, Neo-Cubism, and Fauvism. She was inspired by Piet Mondrian’s grid and the way Matisse constructed collage.

During the Depression, she worked as a muralist for the Works Project Administration (WPA). She was an important member of the Artists Union and the American Abstract Artists, and was committed to social and political activism throughout her life.

Krasner created Seated Nude in 1940 about the same time she began to associate with the American Abstract artists. This drawing looks like part of the figure is erased,  and shows the remnants of Cubism. Krasner was experimenting with abstraction in a raw and evocative way.

30 years later, Krasner cut up many of her drawings and began to create with collage on canvas.

LITTLE IMAGE Series

 

Lee Krasner, Noon

The above image is part of the Little Image series done from 1946-1950. It’s titled Noon (1947) and is one of 31 works in the series. The design is all-over abstraction, and seems to be composed of innumerable little images that may represent a personal vocabulary. Swirls of paint surround daubs of paint. The paint is thick. Colors are tonal reds, blues, brown-green, pale yellows and warm whites.

At artnet.com, I read: “Krasner was moving toward a more color-saturated, almost pointillist approach that allowed color to take over for gesture as the expressive element in her work.” At the artstory.org, I read: “With these paintings Krasner expanded the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. Taking her cue from Pollock, she worked more directly from instinct, but painted in a state of controlled chaos.”

It’s possible Krasner named the series Little Images because she had to work in a small 2ndfloor bedroom in the home she shared with Pollock at the Springs (Long Island, NY). He had the barn to paint big.  Like him, she worked with canvas on a flat surface. She applied thick paint—sometimes directly from the tube—in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas. We might ask the question: which artist was inspired by the other in terms of imagery? We know the difference was scale.

Robert G. Edelman wrote: “Krasner’s Little Image paintings were admired by fellow artists and critics when they visited Krasner and Pollock at the Springs. Krasner recalled that the art critic Clement Greenberg had stopped by, and spotting an early work from the series remarked, “That’s hot, it’s cooking.” Later, despite the remark’s possibly derisive double meaning, Krasner said, “I considered it a compliment.”

 

Lee Krasner, Untitled

The image above is Untitled (1949). It’s oil on composition board, 48×37 inches, and part of the Little Image series (gift of Alfonso A. Ossorio, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art). Colors are blue, green, cool white and pale pink-purple.

PAINTINGS

 

Lee Krasner, Gaea

The painting above is titled Gaea. It’s oil on canvas (1966), 5’ 9” x 10’ 6”, permanent collection: the Museum of Modern Art, Kay Sage Tanguy Fund © 2018 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Lee Krasner was always drawn to nature-inspired imagery with organic forms – in this case –swirling paint in shapes that look like super-sized flowers. The painting Gaea was included in the huge 2017 MoMA exhibition titled Making Space: Women, Arts and Postwar Abstraction (April 15-August 13, 2017), and was located prominently in one of the first galleries in the show. It was especially dramatic because of its scale, brush-work and colors. Starr Figure co-curated the MoMA exhibition and wrote: “Krasner put her whole body into the brushstrokes that you see across the canvas…and abstract expressionism was all about personal expression through the gesture of painting.”

The painting was created in the barn on the property at Springs after Pollock died in 1956. The wall signage next to the painting read:  “…In the mid-1960s her work took on a spirit of free invention, embodied in broad, sweeping strokes of paint – quite different from her smaller, thickly painted, and tightly controlled canvases of the Little Image series of the late 1940s.” Gaea is named for the Earth goddess of ancient Greek mythology.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video interview with Starr Figura about the meaning of the title “Making Space.” – about making more space for women artists in the Museum’s programming, and how the women in the exhibition paved the way for more women artists to follow.

 

Lee Krasner, The Springs

The image above is titled The Springs (1964), oil on canvas, 43 x 66 inches, collection: National Museum of Women in the Arts, gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay, ©2012 the Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This painting combines the vocabulary of circles, ovals, and chevron shapes that Krasner first developed in her “Little Image” paintings of the 1940s. The colors are earth greens, ivory white, and palest pink on an ivory white background.  The colors and interlaced forms suggest flowers in a wind-blown landscape.

Springs is the name of the village near East Hampton, Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock, moved in 1945. Krasner began using the small barn as her studio after Pollock died, and her works grew in size. After Krasner’s death in 1984, the house became the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. Paint by both artists can be seen on the floorboards on the barn-studio.

CUT UP CANVAS COLLAGE

In the early 1950s Lee Krasner became frustrated with the quality of several of her works and began shredding the canvases. In her earlier days studying with Hans Hofmann, Krasner had become an avid fan of Matisse, and had experimented with collage. Inspired by Matisse and his cutouts, she started using her shredded paintings as raw materials for a body of powerful, emotive collages, transforming the shreds of her “failed” paintings into a radical new direction in her oeuvre.

 

Lee Krasner, Milkweed

The image above is titled Milkweed (1955), 82 x 57 inches, oil, paper and canvas collage on canvas, collection: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

Milkweed is a perennial plant, sometimes also called Butterfly flower.

Lee Krasner was criticized during her life because she destroyed and repurposed drawings and paintings into new works. Milkweed and other collages on canvas are the result.” Starting in 1952-53, she unstretched, slashed, tore and cut up canvases in a way that emphasized their edges, which are alternately jagged and frayed, sharp and keen. With Milkweeed, she added dark green lines to unite the fragments with a circular rhythmic pattern that contrasts with the vertical movement of thin white canvas strips rising from below.

In her book 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History, author Bridget Quinn writes: “It strikes me that the collages are Krasner’s most autobiographical works. What is not autobiography if it’s not selecting chunks of the past and artfully reorienting them in the present? Each collage was a work…ripe with her joys and sorrows.”

 

Lee Krasner, Imperative

The image above is titled Imperative (1976), 50 x 50 inches, oil, charcoal and paper collage on canvas, collection: the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Mr/Mrs Eugene Victor Thaw.

In this collage, Krasner integrated cut up charcoal drawings with cut up painted canvas. The shapes are hard-edge and triangular. The pattern is positive/negative with white triangular areas surrounded by dark charcoal drawings and painted canvas.

 

Lee Krasner, Burning Candles

The image above is titled Burning Candles (1955), oil, paper and canvas on linen, 58×39 inches, Collection: Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS).

This collage shows a rhythmic and vertical thrust with hard-edge cut shapes that mimic the shape of candles  and point to the top. The colors are natural-toned, soft browns, ochres, black, white and grey.

In her book titled Originals, American Women Artists, Eleanor Munro wrote “Lee Krasner was referred to by macho artists and art critics during her life as “Pollock’s wife who also paints.”

Krasner was always open to change and receptive to the possibilities for new directions in her work. In an interview, Munro asked the artist about her revisionist tendencies. Krasner said: I believe in listening to cycles.” She always trusted her preference for a connection to nature, and was always willing to wait for a return from a dead cycle to get started again.

With regard to her paper and canvas collages Krasner said: “Obviously I’m hauling out work (drawings) of 30 years ago. Obviously pulling that out. Dealing with it. Not ignoring, hiding it. I’m saying, here it is in another form. This is where I’ve come from: from there to here. It gives me a kick to be able to go back and pick up 30 years ago. It renews my confidence in something I believe. That there is continuity.”

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Some artists focus on one particular style so that almost any art lover can easily describe typical examples of their works. Other artists, however, purposefully and constantly evolve their style, refusing to be limited by one aesthetic approach. Lee Krasner epitomized this approach. To describe a typical Lee Krasner painting would be impossible, because her work was never typical. Multiple times over the course of her career Krasner completely redirected her approach to painting.

Although she is normally associated with the Abstract Expressionists, Krasner’sdesire to revise her aesthetic – or what she called “breaks” – led to her innovative Little Image series of the late 1940s, her bold collages of the 1950s, and her large canvases, brilliant with color, of the 1960s.

Krasner was “rediscovered” by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see the recognition of her art and career, which continues to grow to this day.